Oriental Institute and Robie House, University of Chicago

On the grounds of the University of Chicago, a world renowned private research college with roots back to 1857, are two amazing places, the Oriental Institute initiated in 1919 for all methods of Oriental studies, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House.

The Arrival

If you follow a driving app, you'll probably end up going in circles and circles around the places. Just get on University Avenue and park there. The west of the college is like a war zone, the north also, the south and east are upscale remnants of the famous Columbian Exposition in the 1800s.

No tickets were needed to either location for when I went. I just showed up and in I went!

The Oriental Institute

Home to scientific and archaeological studies of the Orient (which back then meant basically anything south or east of Italy), the institute has been involved in excavations and interpretations of language, culture and remains since its inception with almost non-stop exploration of the Far East.

The Institute boasts an astounding collection, one of the rare museums where the ownership and legality of objects is easily traced. In exchange for funding and conducting archeological digs, host countries granted the collection a percentage of the total amount discovered. They also have reproductions of very significant objects which, like the stele bearing Hammurabi's code in the Louvre. I have seen the originals and they are in other blog posts.
A huge map of all the places the institute has excavated
There is a special display area which rotates and then the permanent collection. This time it was an exhibition on statues and how they are interpreted for meaning.
A nice display saying what they think these are representing, and why Religious texts in stone

Permanent displays

The rest of the museum has more of the permanent displays from their 100 year history, encompassing 10,000 years of human civilization. The old school halls and displays I find a very cool, like a time traveling experience back to the 1930s which has such an attraction to me.
Persian bull head from Persepolis now in modern Iran, a common theme in that empire Egyptian!  Yes, they have some exceptional items
It was preserved to the ultimate degree and kept intact when discovered.  Most mummies were 'opened' when found. The largest Egyptian statue in the western hemisphere, and of course, it's of King Tutankhamun Massive Assyrian lamassu, all in one piece, I have no idea how they transported it without damage back in the day
7000 years of pottery, and astonishingly minor changes throughout.  What an incredible display of time

The Shop

Of course as you know, mainstays of my museum posts are definitely the shops. This one is very focused on the types of collections featured with targeted books for sale, plus books published by the institute over the years.

The Robie House - A Frank Lloyd Wright home

In 1909, Frederick Robie, son of a successful merchant, commissioned Frank Lloyd Write to design a house to be built on the grounds of the Institute. This location was chosen because both he and his wife were graduates of the University of Chicago and the community of alumni there was very close knit.

Sadly he was only able to live there a little over a year before his father passed away, leaving gambling debts amounting to millions in today's money. The company went under and the house was sold off. It passed hands several times, and was almost torn down by the seminary in 1957 before 89-year-old Wright intervened and was able to get a friend to buy the house and donate it to the college.

Robie House is an archetype of the Prairie design movement, and is now a protected property and well kept.
View from the southwest, seems like a 60s home, not 1910 Now the main entrance, formerly the driveway and garage
All the lead stained glass and book cases A lovely room for entertaining.  I do not know what is behind the safe door at the end The living room, the most prominent example of Wright's open floor design in this house
How these kids did not go blind in these dark rooms... that rocking chair was actually rescued from a dumpster and is an original part of the house Omg those drawers and closets in the master bedroom A fireplace where the flue goes to each side.  The house was also heated by the chimneys, not just the fireplaces themselves
This shower is so crazy, multiple heads, angles, levels, all designed by the Wright Studio

The Shop

The old garage was converted into the shop, containing all things Frank Lloyd Wright and architecture. It also has some really cool designed items (like Wright Prairie stained glass drink tumblers) for your own home.


Not the biggest places, not the most complete collections, but these are two great things to see, especially if you're looking for something outside of the usual Chicago attractions.

The Institute is reportedly the inspiration for Indiana Jones' alma mater, and is very reflective of the time period in which he was portrayed. I felt it was intimate with the ability to get touching distance from items; I kinda wish I could live there.

The Robie house is just a delightful and amazing private home that you cannot believe is 110 years old when you walk through it. It really has stood the test of time and style.

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